God extends His hand during times of tragedy - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

God extends His hand during times of tragedy

November 25th, 2017 development
God extends His hand during times of tragedy

By Rabbi Irwin Wiener

It hardly seems possible. Colorado, Texas, Nevada. Places we think about, places we learn about, places that evoke memories of fun and laughter, and now tears.

How can we make sense of it all? How can we offer the consolation and comfort needed so badly in such trying times? What has happened to our beloved America?

These thoughts came to mind as I sat glued to the television screen in disbelief after the deadly mass shootings at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Nov. 5. I began to recite the 23rd Psalm…… “Your staff is there to support me.”

These words, written by King David during a very trying time in his life, indicate his faith and devotion to the salvation offered by God in times of distress. He was fleeing for his life from the threats of King Saul. Feeling nothing but despair, he turned to God and eloquently described his understanding of the blessings associated with the gift of life.

David found the courage to turn his unfortunate despondency into a vision of collective redemption.

He inspired himself and in turn all Israel with the remembrance of the goodness and mercy of God as the Israelites wandered in the desert 40 years in search of their destiny. How can such a God abandon him? After all, he too wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of hopelessness.

Whenever I read the 23rd Psalm – whether during times of grief or times of sorrowful news – I somehow find comfort. Unfortunately, life is filled with tragedies that often overshadow the wonderful moments of happiness. Memories somehow travel to unfortunate incidents and shade the glory of marvelous experiences.  Moreover, we seem to dwell on the bad and relegate the good to the shadows of anguish.

People live and people die, but what happens in between can be daunting. Hearing news that illness has taken hold and has us trapped in a cycle of pain. The news is not so good and the outcome so predictable.

Once there was vibrancy, gaiety and now pain and misery as we wait for the final curtain to come down on our lives, hopes and dreams.

Witnessing the indiscriminate murder of innocent children, men and women leaves us all distraught. Where is the humanity? Where is civilized society? Where is hope and faith and courage? Tiny babies, children starting to understand the value of life, parents and grandparents enjoying the thrill of continuity – all shattered in an instant.

Where is God? Why is this happening? Where are the days filled with laughter and celebration? We search for answers and realize that there are none. There is tragedy. Such is now the case. The news is all bad – no hope – just the realization of finality.

We need to remember that we have a partner. God is our partner. Sometimes in our despair we think that no one cares, especially God and we question the very existence of our Creator because of our pain.

We cry out for answers, never truly understanding that God is right here, by our side, and at times even carrying us in His arms to rest our weary feet from the sad parts of our journey.

Margaret Fishback Powers wrote an essay titled “Footprints.” In it, she writes of a dream she had. She was walking along the beach with her God. As she walked, scenes of her life flashed before her. And with each step she took, she noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to her and the other belonging to God.

Then, as the last scene of her life flashed, she noticed only one set of footprints. She thought of this as the lowest and saddest time of her life.

She was so troubled and began to question God by reminding Him that He had promised to be with her all the way, all during her journey of life. She continued to question whether God had remembered His promise and that during her most troublesome time she noticed there was only one set of footprints in the sand.

Her faith seemed to be shattered, and she questioned even more by asking why during her most trying time was God not beside her, walking with her.

Then, she continues her story by explaining what all of us should know but tend to forget: That there is only one set of footprints at the time of our suffering, the time of great despair, because it is then that God carries us. This is why we may see only one set of footprints.

People will constantly ask me these very questions, and I search for answers that will comfort and console. I cannot show frustration nor can I give up. I see pain on the faces of those afflicted and those standing close with no ability to heal or respond to the anticipated emptiness.

God is there to provide a certain balance in life. On the one hand, He extends His hand to lift the spirit, as the other hand understands the affliction.

It is hard to describe this to someone who is going through the ordeal. It is even harder to comprehend the belief that God affords us the opportunity to receive comfort even while He cannot prevent the drama from unfolding.

The Prophet Isaiah reminds us that God will comfort us giving us the ability to cope. We tend to forget the goodness and kindness that we encounter as we move through the journey of life.

We become so engrossed in our distress that we cannot recall the beauty of the steps we take as we move from episode to contentment.

No words can suffice to bring solace to the prospect of death and no actions taken by others will give us the ability to forget the anger and frustration. It is up to us to return to the center of life through reliance on ourselves, our family, our friends, and our appreciation of God, who is there to take our hand as we are guided on the path of release-the release of all our burdens.

Where is God? God is everywhere we want him to be and even places where we would least expect. In the Book of Kings, we read that God is not in the wind, not in the earthquake, not in fire, but in a still small voice. That voice is ours reaching out to walk with God in our hour of need because He will hear, He does see, and He can comfort.

The philosopher Spinoza taught that eternity is the very core of God. There is no end. There is continuation of life. There is immortality. There is life after death. There is grace, and there is forgiveness. God made all things both good and not so good; it is up to us to glean the good from among all that there is so that we can enjoy life and expect connection at death.

Watching people go through pangs of torment can be unnerving, but I remember the final words of Psalm 23: “And I will dwell in the house of Lord forever.”